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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of May 8 - 14, 2002


Ketchum joins 
E-911 debate

Express Staff Writer

If the Wood River Valley’s fire and police departments can’t soon reach accord on improving the valley’s 911 services, their differences could undermine a November vote that is needed to fund the improvements within the next two years.

The Ketchum City Council joined a discussion Monday night on how best to upgrade Blaine County’s 911 services.

To make improvements, Blaine County voters could be asked in November to approve a $1-per-month phone tax, which can only be posed every two years. Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon said he is concerned that voters might reject the measure if the valley’s police and fire departments can’t agree.

While the debate was muddy Monday night because of the Ketchum Fire Department’s and Ketchum Police Department’s differing opinions, public officials and emergency services personnel were emphatic about the need for an improved system in general.

Blaine County is one of the only counties in Idaho without emergency 911 services, which can help emergency personnel more easily locate a phone call’s origin.

"E-911 is like an enhanced caller I.D. It immediately gives the dispatcher the phone number, the billing name, and it also gives the physical address where the phone is located," said Ketchum Communications Dispatcher Susan Schick.

Furthermore, systems are available that can forward maps to laptop computers in emergency vehicles, further speeding response times.

"There’s nothing I want more than E-911," said Ketchum Police Chief Cal Nevland. "It’s going to save a life someday, and probably shortly."

Mayor Simon said he will schedule a hearing specifically on this topic in the coming months, but meanwhile, the waters remain muddy.

Of Ketchum’s players, the police department favors technological consolidation of the valley’s 911 services, while the fire department favors physical consolidation at a county-wide facility. The cost of the two plans varies dramatically.

Nevland said his plan, which upgrades Ketchum’s and Blaine County’s dispatch centers, could be implemented for as little as $200,000, while Ketchum Assistant Police Chief Greg Schwab said physical consolidation can occur for $2.7 million.

In order to achieve the funding either way, the $1-per-month phone tax would need to be approved by a super majority of Blaine County voters.

Simon said if all parties involved can’t start to agree on a plan of action soon, it could undermine efforts to gain voter approval this fall, putting off potential funding for another two years.

Meanwhile, the debate will continue.

"Everybody wants E-911," said Councilman Baird Gourlay. "The question is, do we go to a central dispatch or not?"


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.